Rasul Boqiev is a household name in Tajikistan and for all the right reasons. He was the country’s first Olympic medallist in judo and he remains steadfastly committed to the judo values.
Rasul Boqiev, Olympic bronze medallist, Beijing, 2008

Immediately after the Dushanbe Grand Prix, the IJF media team had the privilege of being invited to his private dojo. Inside we found photos from Boqiev’s extensive career, as well as family portraits showing a love for judo through several generations. His older brother was Tajikistan’s first Olympian, while Rasul not only went to the 2008 Games in Beijing but also climbed on to the podium after winning a bronze medal.

Bronze at the 2007 Rio De Janeiro World Championships

That Olympic bronze followed a world bronze from the previous year, won in Rio De Janeiro. There were World Cup wins, the equivalent of grand slams and grand prix now and there was a lot of national pride and a surge in judo’s reach nationwide.

“My family are all in judo and my father particularly wanted one of his sons or students to be good enough for an Olympic medal. I trained from 4 years old and of course it began as a game, something fun, but as I grew up it became special and I was really living the dream. I was travelling and competing on the biggest stages and had friends all over the world. I finished my competitive career in 2015."

Family portraits on the walls of Rasul Boqiev's dojo in Dushanbe

"During my heaviest training years I was sent away a lot to train as there weren’t others in my country at the same level. I’m glad it’s different for the current generation.

There had been no Olympic medals in judo before my time and so when I won the medal, people became more confident to really try to progress towards big achievements. There have been some very big achievements just this week with the first grand prix in history in Tajikistan. Our team performed really well, 6 medals is outstanding."

Somon Makhmadbekov won gold for Tajikistan at home

"I’m really proud that my country has the grand prix. I heard all the cheering and felt so much pride. When l came to present medals I was really touched and was proud all over again, presenting the medals to the next generation, the team I always hoped would do well; it was a lovely moment.

Through judo, from the beginning, I was always taught to be kind and to think the right way and when giving the medals to the next generation I remembered growing up with both medals and values. I hope I can be part of the transmission of that to this team and the next. For all coaches, including myself, the main things are that the judoka should train well and always with strong values. Aligning these ideas is still developing in Tajikistan but it is getting better and better and judo education is being promoted a lot.

I do my best to teach well and to transmit what I have learned. For example, there are many young judoka trying to come to me for training and I do all I can to give them time. They want to be the best and I owe it to them to value that and provide them with positive experiences. I sometimes get invited to deliver masterclass far away on the other side of Tajikistan and I will find any time I can to go and work in that way. All judoka should learn to not always just take but to give and to share."

Rasul Boqiev (TJK) employing his favourite technique at the Beijing Games

"I’m looking forward to one day cheering for our mixed team at a world championships or an Olympic Games. With continued education, development across both men and women and continued strategic planning, this day will come soon; just a few more years work to do.”

With such positivity from the previous generation, from the federation president and from the judoka themselves, all supported by the whole country, Tajikistan can’t fail but to step forward more boldly on the world stage. It feels like the Dushanbe Grand Prix was a perfect introduction to an incredible future for Tajik judo.

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